In Barnet we have a number of contractors who won contracts taking on former Council workers.
There has been a lot of publicity about furlough payments but this is something that hasn’t been an issue within the Council.
However as the lockdown is still with us and the end date seems far away a number of our members have had furloughing enforced.
Why enforced as furloughing does require consultation?
When a worker is told either accept furloughing which means a 20% cut in pay or we put you on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) which as we know is only around £95 a week, which is not an option for the worker.
What is worrying is the length of time that workers could be left on furlough and the obvious financial hardship and mental distress that will bring.
It is a sad fact that it is the lowest paid workers that are facing this furlough attack on their economic security at a time when they are already stressing about the dangers of contracting and passing on COVID 19.
If these workers had not been outsourced they would not be facing this cut in their pay.
What can be done?
The biggest group of our members are Catering workers who are employed by global giant ISS.
Barnet UNISON was informed at the last minute that the whole workforce was being furloughed.
However, Barnet Council have intervened and ensured that these low paid workers will not face a 20% cut in pay by topping up the difference.
Capita however, are simply asking staff either to volunteer to take a 20% cut in pay or in some cases they present another option by what I have referred to as forced furlough as no workers can afford to be paid SSP.
Barnet UNISON asked Capita to top up the 20% but they refused citing company policy.
Who should be topping up?
The furlough scheme involves the Government paying up to 80% of the workers wages leaving a 20% pay cut for the worker.
By placing a worker on the furlough the private contractor makes a 100% saving in that they are not paying the worker.
However, they are still receiving their money from the Council for delivering the services they were contracted to provide.
It does seem wrong that when a private contractor wins a contract to deliver public services which would have ordinarily been provided by the Council, then they should surely during this crisis continue to pay the staff regardless of whether for the duration of the this crisis. Instead they appear to be making more money from the public purse.
Last week Mr Reasonable published the latest Barnet Council spend on the two Capita contracts.
In his post “I’m Still Keeping an Eye on Barnet’s Finances”
“The money paid to Capita this year seems almost beyond belief especially at a time when they have performed so poorly to the point that the pensions administration has been taken away from them. This financial year they were paid more than double the contracted sum, £83.2 million versus the contracted sum of £39.7 million and in total for the duration of the contract we have paid them £189.5 million more than the contracted value.”
How can Capita justify placing staff on furlough when they are reaping in this amount of money (£82.2 million in one year) just from Barnet Council, not to mention the 100% saving they make from putting some of their staff on the furlough scheme, this be.
Things really do have to change and that is the public purse must not be used to bailout the private sector at the expense of public services and the low paid, key workers that have continued to deliver services throughout this crisis.